Know Your Ingredients: Marshmallow

We explore the history behind one of the Western world’s favorite summertime treats.


Marshmallows are synonymous with summertime—the sweet, sticky treat can be found at nearly every beach bonfire, and many coffeehouses are incorporating the ingredient into the increasingly popular s’mores latte. However, this food’s history may surprise you: In ancient times, the marshmallow plant was used in various places for medicinal purposes. In today’s installment of “Know Your Ingredients,“ we’ll explore the history of the marshmallow and try out a s’mores latte recipe!

White blossoms on a mallow plant. They have pink centers and slightly fuzzy stalks.
The mallow plant (Althaea officinalis) grows in marshes and is native to parts of Europe and Africa. Photo sourced via Pixabay.

Ancient Origins and Medicinal Use of Marshmallow

Marshmallow originated from the mallow plant (Althaea officinalis), which grows in marshes (hence the name marshmallow) and is native to Eastern Europe and North Africa. The earliest consumption of the plant can be traced to the ancient Egyptians, as early as 2000 B.C. The sap was used medicinally to treat sore throats, coughs, and other illnesses. It was typically mixed with honey to form a sweet, sticky substance—an early form of what we know the marshmallow to be today. Throughout the Middle Ages, the use of marshmallow as medicine would continue in Egypt, Greece, and Italy.

A wooden board in front of a campfire with graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows.
The first s’more recipe was published in 1927 in a Girl Scout guidebook, and is credited to Loretta Scott Crew. Photo by Jessica Ruscello via Unsplash. 

A Turning Point: The Industrial Revolution

Marshmallow’s transition from medicine to confectionary would happen in 19th century France. French bakers would whip the plant’s sap with sugar and egg whites—a labor-intensive process that yielded a highly sought-after treat. During the Industrial Revolution, changes in technology and food production would propel marshmallow production; however, the marshmallow sap—which was difficult to extract—would be replaced with gelatin, allowing for larger-scale production of the sweets. 

Today’s marshmallows are made in the same way: with gelatin, sugar, and other flavorings. And though the exact origins of the iconic s’more are still debated, the first published recipe of the treat is credited to Girl Scout troop leader Loretta Scott Crew, whose recipe can be found in a 1927 Girl Scout guidebook.

Slightly different coloring on mallow plants: these are a light purple with whitish centers, surrounded by other flowers in a park.
Althaea officinalis (marsh mallow) growing in Bartholdi Park, behind the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of NMNH Botany Dept.

Marshmallows and Specialty Coffee Today

Today, the modern marshmallow can be found gracing specialty-coffee menus in the winter and summer alike. Claudia Álvarez of La Casita del Café, a coffee cart operating out of Vandermeer Nursery in Ontario, Canada, shares how having a s’mores latte on her menu last August served as a bridge between her roots in Mexico and her new home in Canada. 

“I was introduced to s’mores here in Canada, and I believe it was part of the experience of (me) merging into Canadian culture,” she shares. “I decided to incorporate the treat into a latte, (to capture) all those great camping memories that many Canadians carry with them.”

The drink, available iced, is a fusion of marshmallow, oat milk, and chocolate, topped with vanilla cold foam and a cookie crumble. 

Play with the flavor of marshmallow at home or at your café with this Monin S’mores Latte!

An iced s'more latte with chocolate and cold foam.
A s’mores latte at La Casita del Café. Photo courtesy of Claudia Álvarez.

Recipe: Monin S’mores Latte


  • 1 oz Monin toasted marshmallow syrup
  • ½ oz chocolate syrup
  • 2 shots of espresso
  • 8 oz milk (dairy or nondairy)
  • 1 toasted marshmallow (for garnishing)
  • 1 graham cracker


In a bowl, use a spoon to crush your graham cracker into crumbs. Set aside.
Pour the marshmallow syrup, chocolate syrup, and espresso into your mug or glass. Steam your milk and top it off—or, for iced drinks, add milk and ice to your glass. 
Garnish with your toasted marshmallow, graham cracker crumbs, and an extra drizzle of chocolate syrup. Enjoy!


Emily Joy Meneses (she/they) is a writer and musician based in Los Angeles. Her hobbies include foraging, cortados, vintage synths, and connecting with her Filipino roots through music, art, food, and beverage.

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